WWDC: New Friendships Forged, Old Bonds Broken
Apple revealed the end of some old alliances at WWDC on Monday, as well as the formation of new ones, such as a partnership with Facebook. "What's really different now is [Apple's] willingness to partner," said Sterne Agee's Shaw Wu. "In the past, that was missing. Now, they're willing to partner where they're aren't as strong, rather than compete with someone like Yelp."
Apple executives once again took the stage this week to show off the company's new software and hardware initiatives at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.
This was the first time CEO Tim Cook took the helm at a WWDC keynote. He and other company executives presented conference-goers with a first look at Apple's upcoming version of the operating system for iPads, iPhones and iPod touches. They also revealed revamped MacBook Pros and a new information about Mountain Lion.
As expected, Apple is dropping Google Maps as its default navigation partner for iOS 6, due this fall, and instead launching an in-house map platform. Apple put a focus on design with its maps system, building the service with an interactive 3D and flyover views. The maps will also have traffic re-routing capabilities and turn-by-turn navigation.
Apple's maps will be integrated with Siri, which will allow users to launch the map apps and get directions by voice. The company is also working with auto manufacturers to make some vehicles, including cars from GM, BMW, Honda and Jaguar, able to launch Siri's map help through a steering wheel button, called the "Eyes Free" option.
The new map feature pushes the more established Google Maps application further out of Apple's operating system and millions of iPhones and iPads, although Brian Carter, an Internet marketing expert, told MacNewsWorld that even if Apple doesn't have as much experience in the market, it is releasing a product ready to be an industry leader.
"The new maps software eliminates Apple's need to rely on Google Maps. Its voice navigation ability will put it ahead of Google Maps," he said.
iOS 6 Adding Partners
In addition to upgrades to iOS' Maps app, Apple is also integrating more social media sites into its operating system. The most notable partnership is between Apple and Facebook. The popular social network will now be integrated entirely into iOS 6, meaning users can update statuses without accessing a separate Facebook app. The company did the same thing with Twitter when it released iOS 5.
Since the world of social networking is relatively young, Apple could be building a relationship that will have increased use going forward, said Carter. The Facebook integration will allow users to see Facebook friends' birthdays in an app such as iTunes.
"Facebook is the best source in the world for people data, so it makes a lot of sense for my friends' info to be integrated into my calendar and other iOS apps," said Carter.
Apple is also integrating social media sites such as Yelp into iOS 6 -- another way the company is pushing Google away from its platform.
"Apple got the partnership with Yelp," Shaw Wu, senior research analyst at Sterne Agee, told MacNewsWorld. "Google is looking to get into the local market more, so Apple is taking a little away from them by doing that. Apple's not necessarily doing all these things primarily against Google, but it is trying to build the best user experience possible, and they're going after a lot of areas that aren't in their core focus to help them do that."
That outreach to different social partners is more friendliness than Apple typically shows, said Wu, but it's a good way to acknowledge their weaknesses, effectively manage resources and build a more complete ecosystem.
"What's really different now is their willingness to partner," said Wu. "In the past, that was missing. Now, they're willing to partner where they're aren't as strong, rather than compete with someone like Yelp, where Google and Microsoft might try to compete. Apple is acknowledging what is outside of their core focus, and it winds up being really good for the other guys too because they're helping develop a stronger customer base."
MacBook Pro Makeover
On top of software innovations, Apple also announced changes to its MacBook Pro line. The newest device, the 15-inch MacBook Pro, will come with a Retina Display and will be the thinnest MacBook Pro yet, at .71 inches thick. That's not quite as small as the MacBook Air, although it will feature some of the same space-saving techniques as the Air, such as ditching the DVD slot.
The upgrade comes at a price. The MacBook Pro will start at US$2,199, although the company will continue to sell faster versions of the old MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
Even though the improvements might make it a coveted machine, the company will still continue to rely on more affordable, versatile products such as the MacBook Air to drive real sales volume, said Wu.
"It's going to sell decently, but the volume seller is going to the Air," he said. "It's less than half the cost of the fancier product, and they've made some good improvements to that one, too. Eventually, down the line, they're probably going to go with a Retina Display, and some of those improvements will ripple down, but for now the big sellers will continue to be the lower-priced MacBooks and the Air."